A Reading Summerย 

Summer has officially started for my three sons since Friday was the last day of school. We celebrated with them, but my husband and I also have been anxious to figure out what we will do to keep them busy and active and learning this summer. This is not always the simplest of tasks. ๐Ÿ™‚

One of the biggest things that we would like to focus on for our twins is reading since their school year was a challenge to meet the required minimum level. We would love to see them start off the new year without falling back on any levels, but our biggest hope is that with a good solid push over the summer, they may start the new year ahead. 

In addition to seeking out other activities to keep them physically active, one of our goals this weekend was to find some academically challenging workbooks and get them going on books to read. I was very happy to find this fantastic workbook that takes them week by week through the summer with ideas for learning activities, suggested reading, and then many pages of exercises in reading, writing and math. Included with the exercises is a rewards system of stickers and certificates, so we have a great way to offer incentives. 

For my gifted and talented oldest son, I skipped the workbook for his grade level and picked out a few logic and puzzle books. His teacher also gave her class a lovely Brain Teaser packet full of logic problems for the summer. He may not have been fired up for it, but his dad and I thought it was great! 

Speaking of great teachers who help over the summer, one of the twins’ teachers offers a bookmobile service over the summer where she will meet us at the school once a week on a designated day and at a specific time to bring some leveled reader books to kids that are needing a little extra help over the summer. What a gift! You gotta love teachers! 

We also have a fantastic library near us that works in conjunction with the schools to push a summer reading program, so we signed up the whole family for the summer reading challenge – me and my husband included! To get them started on it, I took my twins in today and they got their first library cards! We have been to the library there for years but I didn’t realize until recently that they could have their own cards. I thought they were excited, though one of them promptly set his down on the floor to pick something up and forgot all about it. So, maybe not. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Everyone got new books this weekend and everyone is signed up for the summer reading program and everyone is committing to read. This will be our Summer of Reading, and I must tell you I, at least, am very excited for it! 

How about you? Will you be reading this summer? Have kids you are working on reading with? What did you do to keep them reading? 

Thanks for stopping by and have a great week! 

~CJS

S is for…

 

My 2015 A to Z Challenge Theme is Quotes & Lines from Literature. Each day I will be posting a favorite quote or a few lines from well known short stories, poems or novels, with the letter of the first name as the A to Z. I’ll have a short write up with each quote, but each quote can also serve as a writing prompt for readers or myself.  I may write a poem or flash fiction based on that quote, or just throw it out there as inspiration. Hopefully you’ll join me in this adventure! I’ll try to include some of my favorite blog finds as I move through the challenge as well.

 

This quote is just one of many gems that can be found in Stephen King’s autobiographical writing guide, On Writing

My Twisted Writers post yesterday was about reading and writing and how they can go hand in hand, but also how I have been missing reading lately. I just enjoy reading, so the fact that I haven’t done much lately has me feeling like I am missing some of that magic King talks about. I have books all around and a To Be Read list that is always growing, so I have no real excuse except time. But busy or not, I need to make time for reading.

Are you a reader? What are you reading now? 

K is for…

  

My 2015 A to Z Challenge Theme is Quotes & Lines from Literature. Each day I will be posting a favorite quote or a few lines from well known short stories, poems or novels, with the letter of the first name as the A to Z. I’ll have a short write up with each quote, but each quote can also serve as a writing prompt for readers or myself.  I may write a poem or flash fiction based on that quote, or just throw it out there as inspiration. Hopefully you’ll join me in this adventure! I’ll try to include some of my favorite blog finds as I move through the challenge as well.

   

I’ll confess when brainstorming for K, I tried to think of authors whose name started with K and then looked for the quote, rather than having this one. This quote is from Khaled Hosseini’s And The Mountains Echoed, which I will also admit I have not read, but I really love this quote. 

So many favorite books feature characters who seem ordinary or feel ordinary but end up having extraordinary things happen to them.  Harry Potter and Katniss Everdeen are just a few. 

By reading, or writing, we can find ourselves in the characters who live in an extraordinary world and through them feel extraordinary as well. 

To start of the new week of A to Z posts, I’m adding in a poem. I chose the Nonet form which I found on Shadow Poetry. A Nonet has nine lines, with the top line having nine syllables, the second with eight syllables, the next seven, etc down to the last line, which only has one. Rhyming optional. 

Ordinary

By CJS 

Some may say there is nothing worse than

being ordinary, but still 

the ordinary may find

extraordinary

moments may happen

in a life that

seems normal

even

dull.

The Fault In Our Stars

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As seems usual for me, I am a bit late to this party, but now that I am here, I love it! ๐Ÿ™‚ John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars is, as you have no doubt heard and/or seen, being made into a movie. I was tempted to wait until after I saw the movie to read the book because I have the tendency to play the “That’s not how it was in the book!” game and I was afraid I might do that with this one. But I really wanted to read the book because I have seen so many great reviews. I bought the book at a local grocery store with a gift card I’d been given. Why buy food with a gift card when there are books? :). I got a trade paperback with the original cover, not the movie cover, because I am funny like that. ๐Ÿ™‚

Then I was busy with family in town and other things and only this week did I finally get around to reading it. It took no time to love it. Sadly my life does not easily accomodate reading a book the whole way through anymore, but I did stay up late reading a few nights and finished it yesterday.

Cleaning, who needs to clean? Laundry? It’ll still be there. Kids fighting? Sorry guys, I gotta see what happens to Hazel and Augustus. Mommy, are you crying? Yes, yes I am.

Green does so many things right with this book, and as a writer who is always looking to improve her craft, I had to admire his story and all the little details. I cried several times and not just in the BIG moments. I laughed a lot too, cared for the characters, and could see it all so clearly.

I purposely did not watch this trailer until I had read the book so there would be no spoiling the book for me. Now that I have read the book I am super stoked to see that the movie looks like it will be really great, too.

Since I did not want any spoilers I will carefully avoid giving any. I do want to share with you one of the things that really spoke to me that is not tied into something that would be considered a spoiler. Feel free to comment and we can chat about the book as much as you want though. Because there are so many good things.

Hazel has a book she loves in this story. A book she had read again and again. A book that spoke to her and her experience. A book that meant something to her and then to Augustus as well. Of course as a reader I can identify with having a book that you love like this. But because of some things that happen in the story, I really caught a glimpse into the power of being the author (or creator of anything really) that touches people. What we write has the power to move people. Maybe it is simple entertainment, and that is great. Maybe we just take them out of whatever else is going on in the world for a moment. Maybe we make them laugh. Maybe we make them smile.

Maybe we can change their life.

As Spider-Man’s Uncle Ben reminded him, “With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility”. Reading this book helped me see the power and the responsibility.

As I work on things I am writing, I will remember. And even if all I ever write that gets read is this blog, even this can be important to someone. Maybe not monumental (ok probably not monumental ๐Ÿ˜‰ ) but even small things can make a difference.

And we may never know the difference we make.

Hey Mom, You Should Read This

My super smart, super wonderful 8 year old son (and no, I am not at all biased! ๐Ÿ™‚ ) gave me his first serious book recommendation this week. At the time, I was tired, and more than a little overwhelmed with all the STUFF there is to get accomplished and to worry about, so I’ll be honest, at first, I didn’t really give a lot of thought to what that meant to me. But I have thought about it since and decided it was worth a middle of the week bonus blog post to share.

My husband and I are both serious readers. As a writer, it’s an essential job tool, but it is also simply one of my absolute favorite things. For as long as I can remember I have loved to read, so I have always tried to pass along this lifelong love of reading to my three young sons.

Their dad and I have tried to make it a point to always let the boys see us reading. I even make an effort to check out actual books from the library or buy real books at the book store instead of reading all books on my Kindle. My kids are smart enough to know that mommy may be looking at pictures of Tom Hiddleston instead of reading a book on her Kindle. (Don’t you judge me. ๐Ÿ˜‰ ) But also, going to the library for books and buying books at the bookstore are part of the joy for me.

We’ve also always read to them, both for school and just as part of bedtime. When they were babies I remember reading something that said it didn’t matter what you read to your kids, it could even be the sports page, as long as you were reading to them, it would benefit them. I proceeded to read them all the Harry Potter books before they were able to walk. I’m certain this benefitted them greatly.

Here’s what happened that made me realize that I must be doing something right.

My family made a special adventure to the ginormous Half Price Books flagship store in Dallas. The place is seriously really huge and packed full of wonderful goodness. While we were there, we gave the boys a limit on how many books they could get and then did our best to manage the giddy excitement of finding new books.

For my twins, who are 6, this meant superhero books mostly. My oldest twin thoughtfully picked up a Thor book with Loki in it for mommy. He’s a sweet kid.

My oldest’s priority was sports books, specifically football, but then he wanted to look at chapter books. While looking, he found the section with graphic novels. He then became very excited and wanted to find this “awesome” book he’d read at school.

I am not sure if this was through the school library or in the classroom possibly, but he had read Zita The Space Girl. Seeing all the books like the one he wanted, he decided we had to get it.

So the search began.

Thanks to the greatness that is having all answers readily available on a trusty iPhone, I was able to find the author’s name (Ben Hatke) and begin looking for the book. The Half Price Books’ employee was very kind but had not heard of the book, so we did our own search, and -miracle of miracles- found the one copy they had in stock!

The book went home with us (along with many others) and my son read it the next day. He then had my husband read it. He then repeatedly told me I needed to read it, going so far as to set it alongside my other books piled up on the nightstand by the bed. Then, and I am not exaggerating here, actually nudged me with the thing while we were all piled in bed watching TV. Evidently I was not reading it as soon as I should.

So after the kids went to bed, I kept my promise and read the book.

I will admit here that I was not excited. I haven’t paid much attention to graphic novels. I told myself, though, that I would at least start taking a look at it.

It turned out though that my son was right. The book is awesome. The pictures are engaging and lovely. The characters are well defined and interesting. And it left me wanting more.

The next day, driving to work, I started thinking about it all. I thought how cool it was that my son cared enough about a book he read to seek it out and them to recommend it to others.

Isn’t that what I want? I have a child who was passionate about something that means a lot to me – a book – and then shared that with me. What an amazing gift.

I am thankful I opened my eyes to see it.